The Ride, Issue 113
"People say to me, 'You commute by bike? That's gotta be dangerous,'" says Stephen Mosca. "It's safer for me than for you driving 60 mph in your car! I'm going about ten, and the traffic's hardly moving."
Mosca has commuted by bike to work for fifteen years, with the original project to get exercise during the work hours without going to the gym. His current route is a 14-mile round trip to his job at a local airfield, with an extra eight-mile daycare run three times a week pulling a Burley trailer.
"Folks see me as an anomaly," said Mosca, "but one they can smile at. At the airport, parking is tight and there's lots of traffic, so people appreciate that I don't take up space!"
Always a fan of bikes, Mosca, 37, also finds fascination in cars and other motorized engines. "Car and motorcycles are fun, but in terms of engineering or competition. Bikes are a better way of transportation," he said.
Mosca often drives his car on weekends to keep his skills fresh, but he tries to ride all week. That means experiencing all weather conditions -- so it's a good thing he likes the rain! He admits that the hardest weather to dress for is winter, when he can be spotted wearing SPD sandals with socks and neoprene booties ("That's all you need!") on his Cannondale tandem, Cannondale Jeckyll, or on his Vision recumbent with a wind faring.
"The recumbent is my Ferrari," he raves. "I'm the only one in NJ who rides a recumbent in heavy traffic. And it handles like a fighter jet!"
"Every day I'm out there is fun, but it's especially great to get a compliment from somebody." Mosca adds, "I get a lot of cheers from kids. You think you left Coolsville a long time ago, but the kids love the recumbent!"
One ride Mosca didn't enjoy was an encounter with a dead skunk on the road. "I was concentrating on something else, so when I hit the thing, the knobby tires kicked it up and I got skunk meat on my face!"
While that may seem to be a benchmark for the worst commute, Mosca has also found himself riding through a flooded road where the manhole covers had been blown out by the sewer pressure. "That was like going through a minefield," he said.
Sociological experiments are part of his ride. "I lean against cars at red lights to see what people do," he said. "Sometimes they get upset, like others shouldn't even touch their vehicle on a public road! But other times people will chat with me."
Mosca also wears a small display on his back with a few words or an image to spice up the commute for the drivers. Without a lot of time for drivers to read it, he keeps his message short, to statistics, the weather outlook or temperature, some lyrics or phrases both patriotic and unpatriotic. "It breaks the monotony."
Riding on the road in heavy traffic has taught Mosca a few things. "Every road in the US has a bike lane, it's called your rightmost lane," he explains. "When I get on the road, that's my lane."
But he warns, "The problem there is that you've giving people the benefit of the doubt that they have judgment, which they often don't, or they're distracted by the phone or eating. I carry a bell and wear a reflective vest, helmet and multiple lights."
"A lot of bicyclists feel pressure when a horn goes off. That says, 'You're not wanted, get off the road.' The horn tells me that they see me."
"We have to ride out there with confidence, with almost militant tactics, if we're going to convince drivers to accept us."
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Planet Bike honors the silent hero of the Revolution: the bicycle commuter. A supercommuter rides through every season, in all types of weather, day and night. Choosing the simplicity, health and pleasure of bicycling, a supercommuter isn't necessarily against automobiles. They simply prefer to ride a bike to the grocery store, to work, to a concert or the cafe.
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